Commentary from the South Asia Center on the most relevant news from the region, and suggested “must-read” analyses from the week.

There were two high-profile attacks in Afghanistan this week – a suicide bomb blast in a market place and an attack on Kabul airport. At least 42 people died when the attacker carrying explosives drove his car into the busy market in Orgun, Paktika province, on Tuesday. No group has claimed responsibility but the Haqqani militant network is suspected of carrying it out. This would make sense since Paktika province shares a border with Pakistani tribal areas, where the Haqqani network is mainly based. A Taliban spokesman denied carrying out this attack. However the Taliban did claim responsibility for the attack on Kabul International Airport on Wednesday. The heavily armed militants used grenades and automatic weapons but were repelled by the Afghan police. These attacks come at a sensitive time for the country as the two presidential candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, agreed earlier this week to resolve their dispute by accepting the results of an official audit of last month’s elections. Under an agreement brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the audit of eight million votes will take up to four weeks and should pave the way for Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer power.

Relevant News Stories
Afghanistan market car bomb kills 42 in Paktika province (BBC)
Terror Group Back on the Offensive in Afghanistan (New York Times)
Afghan unrest: Taliban attack on Kabul airport over (BBC)


Talks in Vienna on Iran’s nuclear program could be extended beyond the July 20th deadline. The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said, “I see an inclination on the part of my negotiating partners that they believe more time may be useful and necessary, but we haven’t made that determination yet.” The extension would be a welcome move since there are reports of progress being made in Vienna and more time might prove to be useful. These talks are led by the P5+1 group comprising of the US, UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany to negotiate a comprehensive nuclear agreement text with the Iranian delegation.

Relevant News Stories
Iran-USA continue consultations to extend negotiations (IRNA)
Iran minister floats nuclear talks extension (BBC)

Security forces carried out a 10-hour long targeted operation in a militant hideout in Raiwind on Thursday, killing two militants and one elite force member. The raid was jointly conducted by members of the Punjab police elite force and army personnel at a compound located a few kilometers away from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family home in Punjab. The fighting involved the use of guns and grenades and material recovered from the compound includes Kalashnikovs, suicide jackets, and hand grenades. The police were informed about the presence of militants through a tip-off. It is suspected that the Prime Minister could have been a possible target of the militants, since they were hiding near his Raiwind residence. This raid comes at a difficult time as the civilian government and top officials receive threats in response to the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan. In addition to the rising number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) moving to Punjab, there are rising concerns about the movement of militants from North Waziristan to settled areas in Punjab and other provinces. This will create more security threats as terrorists disperse and create more hideouts to plan attacks. 

Relevant News Stories
Punjab police wrap up drawn-out operation in Lahore (Dawn)
Militant hideout busted near premier’s residence (Express Tribune)

The Parliamentary Committee on the Ministry of Water Resources in Bangladesh is concerned that an Indian development project recently resurrected by the Modi government could affect the flow of rivers in Bangladesh. The project, which was initiated by a previous BJP-led NDA government but suspended during the Congress-led UPA’s tenure, is designed to divert the waters of some of India and Bangladesh’s common rivers by linking them with canals. Since it received approximately 1B Rupees in the Modi government’s maiden budget, the committee asked the Indian foreign ministry for more information on the nature of the project. The committee also observed that existing river-dredging projects in Bangladesh are underfunded and obstructed by political turmoil caused by the Bangladesh National Party and the Jamaat-e Islami.

Relevant News Stories
India’s river-linking worrying, says Bangladesh watchdog (BDnews24)
‘Jan 5 polls undeniably flawed’ (The Daily Star)

At their Sixth Annual Summit on July 15, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) launched two new financial institutions, the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement, in order to reshape the global financial system and fund infrastructure in developing economies. After observing how the monetary policies of developed nations caused an exodus of capital from emerging markets in recent years, these countries pressed for a greater say in global financial affairs. Negotiations among members dragged on for years due to stark political and economic differences, especially Indian fears that China could assert control over the bank to project its foreign political influence abroad. Ultimately, India prevailed in securing equal equity at the launch. The bank will be based in Shanghai and presided over by an Indian official for the first five years. In his statements at the summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed the risk that widespread political conflict poses to major developing economies stating that “developments in Iraq and the wider region could affect this. I am also concerned that tight monetary policies in some countries could undercut investment and growth in ours.” In another display of how eager the new Indian government is to boost economic development at home, Modi also unveiled an ambitious plan to build 100 “smart cities” supplied with state of the art communication capabilities. Some observers are skeptical of whether this is the best course of development in a country where many large existing cities lack basic infrastructure.

Relevant News Stories
The BRICS bank: An acronym with capital (The Economist)
Agreement on BRICS development bank significant step: Modi (Times of India)
Cities of the future? Indian PM pushes plan for 100 ‘smart cities’ (CNN)